The Penn State Nittany Lions have a long tradition as “Linebacker U” where they churn out great linebackers year after year. 2013 seemed to be a step back for the group, however, which entered the season without much depth to begin with. That thin roster took hits throughout the year because of injury and Penn State struggled on defense with average production from the linebacker spot. For them to avoid a repeat performance in 2014, they need Mike Hull to come back 100 percent healthy next fall and find a way to stay that way.
There were some big shoes to fill this fall at linebacker when the team had to replace Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges from the 2012 team. Hull was pegged as the leading candidate to enjoy a breakout season with the added opportunities in 2013 but he suffered a couple of setbacks on his way to seizing the day. In the season opener, Hull had just one tackle before having to leave the game with a knee injury that kept him out of two of the next three games.
When he came back for Big Ten play, however, he flashed the ability that make him a breakout star candidate in the first place, recording 10 tackles or more in three of State’s first four conference games. He started to taper off a bit down the stretch as injuries to other members of the linebacker corps stretched the group thin, though he still finished second on the team with 78 tackles on the season, including 4.5 tackles for loss, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble.
Next season, Hull will need to step up as the senior leader of the group with 2013 leading tackler Glenn Carson moving on. Hull will be asked to not only step up his game from a production standpoint but also avoid injuries at all cost as the group will still be razor thin in 2014. Hull has the ability to lead Linebacker U back to glory but he has to stay healthy in order to get it done next season.